Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Repatriation of Iranian seafarers: Centre seeks more time to file reply in Delhi High Court

The petition has been filed by parents of the seafarers and sought various directions to Centre to inter alia provide them financial assistance, consular service and ensure their expeditious repatriation to India.

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The Delhi High Court on Thursday granted more time to the Centre to file a status report regarding the repatriation of five Indian Seafarers, who had joined a cargo vessel named MV Artin 10 in Iran and were subsequently taken into custody by the Iranian authorities.

The petition, filed by the parents of the seafarers, sought various directions to the Centre to inter alia provide them financial assistance, consular service and ensure their expeditious repatriation to India.

Will file status report soon: Centre

A Single-Judge Bench of Justice Rekha Palli granted further time to the Centre, after Advocate Sharma, appearing in proxy for Central Government Standing Counsel (CGSC) Harish V. Shankar, stated that the Centre is providing all possible assistance to the seafarers, including lodging, boarding and weekly groceries. The Court listed the matter for further hearing on December 21.

“Mission has managed the boarding facility with great difficulty, because none of the hotels are willing to give accommodation without identity proof,” submitted by Advocate Sharma for Centre.

She further submitted that legal assistance was provided by the local authorities to the seafarers during the judicial proceedings. The Centre has instructed Ministry of External Affairs to locate their passports, further clarifying that it cannot issue identity card, as passport is the only ID document recognized by foreign governments, she added.

Advocate Sharma said, “We will file the status report pretty soon.”

Justice Palli enquired, “What do you mean by pretty soon?,” pointing to the casual language of the Advocate.

Aniket Yenpure, Mandar Worlikar from Mumbai along with Naveen Singh from Uttarakhand, Pranav Kumar from Bihar and Thamizhselvan Rengasamy from Tamil Nadu had gone to Iran in 2019 through an agency to join a Merchant Ship.

On February 20, 2020, at around mid-night, the ship took 300 gunny sacks of Morphine (1.5 tonnes), about 140 K.M. off the coast of Muscat, Oman. Subsequently, even before reaching the port, Iranian authorities boarded the vessel near the Strait of Hormuz, found the drugs and charged the crew with criminal conspiracy and smuggling narcotics.

In March, after 403 days of incarceration, a local court at Chabahar acquitted them of the charges and ordered their immediate release, but they have not been permitted to leave Iran.

On July 27, the Court had directed the Central Government to file a status report on the facilities being made available to the petitioners.

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